The 2020 Atlanta Braves team was the most exciting and jubilant team that I’ve ever witnessed in my 35+ years of fandom. Luckily for the Braves, most of the core is under control for 2021. However, not so lucky for the Braves, there was a double loss of revenue for the team as both the Battery and, obviously, Truist Park took mighty hits.
In 2020, the Braves held a payroll that would’ve been the highest in franchise history, coming in at $160 MM. Fortunately for the bottom line, the Braves only had to pay ~$60 MM of that amount. Still, that $60 MM combined with the loss in revenue for both venues likely cost the organization hundreds of millions and I cannot fathom that the Braves can afford a $160 MM payroll come 2021.
I’ve heard floated from several opinions that I trust that believe dollars spent by MLB overall will be down 20%. That seems about right to me for the Braves, so I’m going to operate on the belief that the team will have a payroll in the $130MM range.
In today’s piece, we will look at the players under contract for the upcoming season, arbitration eligible players, and pre-arb players to get a general understanding of where the payroll sits, the team’s needs, and the $ that is available.
Players Under Contract for the 2021 Season
There are 7 guys that are under contract for the 2021 season and one that has an option that is an absolute no-brainer pick up. Here are their salaries:
- Freddie Freeman: $22.5 MM
- Will Smith: $13 MM
- Travis d’Arnaud: $8 MM
- Ender Inciarte: $8.7 MM
- Chris Martin: $7 MM
- Ronald Acuna Jr.: $5 MM
- Darren O’Day: $3.5 MM
- Ozzie Albies: $3 MM
Total: $70.7 MM for 8 players
MLB Trade Rumors Arbitration Estimates for Braves
A few weeks back, MLBTR put up my favorite offseason piece of the year, their arbitration estimates. However, it comes with 3 separate predictions due to the unpredictability of a 60-game season and how they’ll measure it.
For the sake of my sanity and this exercise, I’m sticking with the middle number as I feel it’s what the union will fight for (and rightly deserve).
Johan Camargo – $1.9MM / $2.3MM / $1.9MM
Grant Dayton – $900K / $1.0MM / $800K
Adam Duvall – $4.4MM / $7.1MM / $4.7MM
Max Fried – $2.4MM / $4.6MM / $2.4MM
Luke Jackson – $1.9MM / $2.1MM / $1.9MM
A.J. Minter – $1.1MM / $1.6MM / $1.1MM
Mike Soroka – $1.8MM / $1.9MM / $1.8MM
Dansby Swanson – $4.3MM / $8.3MM / $5.0MM
Cumulative Total: $99.6. MM for 16 players
It’s quite possible the Braves keep all of these guys as they all have some sort of value to the team. However, I’d venture a guess that both Camargo and Luke could be shopped this offseason.
This is the section that is saving the payroll as there are a ton of regulars that will cost very little and, if healthy, should receive regular MLB time. For now, I’m counting on 8 of these players to be on the Opening Day roster (players in bold). The guys that are italicized are players that I think are trade chips this offseason.
- Touki Toussaint
- Kyle Wright
- Jeremy Walker
- Jacob Webb
- Austin Riley
- Alex Jackson
- William Contreras
- Tyler Matzek
- Phil Pfeifer
- Ian Anderson
- Tucker Davidson
- Cristian Pache
- Jasseel De La Cruz
- Patrick Weigel
- Bryse Wilson
- Huascar Ynoa
- Drew Waters
Total: ~$4.5 MM for 8 players
Cumulative Total: ~$104.1 MM for 26 players.
Assuming no trades, the Braves have at least 24 players that are MLB ready and/or deserving of a roster spot. I used the term deserving very loosely for Ender Inciarte.
Around the Horn
Infield (5): Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Austin Riley, Johan Camargo
Outfield (3): Ronald Acuna Jr., Cristian Pache, Adam Duvall
Catcher (2): Travis d’Arnaud, William Contreras
Starting Pitching (5): Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Ian Anderson, Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson
Relief Pitching (9): Darren O’Day, A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek, Grant Dayton, Jacob Webb, Huascar Ynoa, Luke Jackson, Will Smith, Chris Martin
This is the hardest part to write as one could easily justify that Austin Riley needs a platoon partner, or that AA needs to move on from Johan Camargo. One could also come to the conclusion that Adam Duvall is not an everyday starter and should only see time against LHP, especially in a 162 game season. And then there’s the starting pitching where both Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright have shown dominance one start and the complete inability to finish an inning in others. And while the bullpen listed has a lot of great arms, it lacks the eye catching depth that was present this year. Granted, at one point in time Mark Melancon and Shane Greene weren’t household names and a few of these guys might only need reps to become the next ace reliever.
This brings me to my final point on this topic. Alex Anthopoulos has a rule of thumb when it comes to the offseason and that is to find great players then worry about how they fit later. For this roster, I think that’s a great mindset and one that I could get behind. Sure, the Braves could re-sign Marcell Ozuna and call it a day, but that doesn’t seem to be Anthopoulos’s M.O. and I wouldn’t expect it. One could justify adding to every aspect of this team and I expect Alex Anthopoulos to go into the offseason with that mentality.
- A Trade of Ender Inciarte: The Braves now have the type of players that have no place on the team, but have serious upside that could be coveted by others. It’s interesting that my mind goes directly to Touki Toussaint, as that’s exactly how they acquired him by taking on dead money. To me, 8.7MM in 2020 to push the money available to ~35MM greatly helps the Braves.
- Trade for Another Stud Pitcher: I’ll not dwell on this topic too long, but I know the Braves were interested in Luis Castillo at the deadline last year and I’m guessing they would be again if he were available.
It’s going to be an all hands on deck series and the Braves Journal All-Stars are ready to share their thoughts. Next up, Alex R and the starting pitching tomorrow!